As Peter opens his first epistle he writes of the blessing which his readers enjoy as a result of having been “begotten…again unto a lively hope” (1:3). This he expands in the following verses, after which he gives the first exhortation of the epistle. “Gird up the loins of your mind,” he declares, “be sober and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1:13).
There are two words in the New Testament that are translated “gird.” One is to be found from the pen of Luke in his Gospel where we read, “Let your loins be girded about” (12:35). This is also used by Paul in the epistle to Ephesians, where he exhorts the readers to have their “loins girt about with truth” (6:14). That is a compound word which means “to fasten garments with a girdle or belt.” The picture used in Ephesians is that of a Roman soldier whose accouterments were held together by a leather belt. Now, asserts Paul, truth is that which holds together and supports the weapons of the believer in his struggle.
Peter, however, introduces another compound word meaning “to gather by a belt or to gather up.” He uses it as a metaphor which comes from the practice of gathering up the flowing garments which were worn in that day. Meyer’s commentary defines it as “a figurative expression taken from runners (and others) who tucked up their dress, so as to prosecute their work with less hindrance.” Doubtless Peter had done this often. Casting nets, landing the fish, and cleaning the nets were all tasks that would demand that the flowing garment, if it was being worn, must be gathered up.
To gird up, therefore, is to be in a state of readiness. In the Septuagint, the Greek word is used to denote preparation for serious business as the six hundred men appointed of the children of Dan stood by the gate as the idols in the house of Micah were purloined (Jud 18:16). It is used also of the virtuous woman who “girdeth her loins with strength” (Prov 31:17) as she goes about the important business of ordering her household.
No Israelite, however, would ever read Peter’s words without their bringing to mind the most momentous day in the history of the nation. At the Passover in Egypt, as they were about to be delivered, they were to eat the Passover with their “loins girded,” ready for the journey. They were not to be hindered in the way by what was around them, but were rather to be free to move quickly from their place of bondage. For salvation it was necessary to be “girded up.”
It is also necessary to be “girded up” for sanctification and service. If urgency marked Israel in Egypt, the same urgency ought to mark believers as they continue on the journey which commenced with deliverance from the “power of darkness.” Thus it is that Peter exhorts to “gird up the loins of your mind.”
This first point to be stressed is that the pursuit of a life that is pleasing to the Lord will not take place without spiritual determination. Peter would never have engaged in his trade unless his garments had been girded. The act of girding indicated that the individual was preparing for service. The challenge for the reader is whether such preparation has been made.
Second, girding, as has been noted, was for the purpose of ensuring that the garments did not become entangled with objects around and therefore became an impediment to progress in the task to hand. Girding up the loins of the mind is therefore a deliberate attitude to ensure that the mind of a believer is directed to serving the Lord and that there is nothing in the mind that would impede the pursuit of that aim.
This exhortation is much needed in today’s society. One of the main thrusts of the Adversary’s attack, both on believers and unbelievers, is to fill minds with that which will distract from vital spiritual matters. The pressures of work and business so easily intrude with the aim of dominating the mind. Those who seek to follow the Lord will, with His help, seek to put these issues in their place. Attention must be given to them, for a believer must be faithful in the discharge of responsibilities, but must also be careful that they do not entangle themselves in the mind.
In addition, from overmuch entanglement in the necessary duties of life there are other dangers to avoid. The Internet, the media, computer games, the entertainment establishment, and the leisure industry all do battle to capture the time, fill the mind, channel the thoughts, and empty the pockets of those who become “entangled.” Precious hours, never to be lived again, can be wasted in worthless pursuits. It is true that it is necessary to have times when we come aside and rest awhile, although that day did not turn out to be one of rest for the disciples (Mk 6:31). Those who are serious in living as a Christian will be careful that their times of “rest” are not hours for the Adversary to fill.
Just as the sad practice of Israel was to encourage the Nazarites to break their vow by drinking wine (Amos 2:12), so there may be some who will regard a saint with a “girded” mind as living too restricted a life, of being “too extreme,” whose mind must be “broadened.” Let that be as it may and ignore such pressures. The issues are left for the assessment of the Judgment Seat.
The girded mind is clear in its aim of living a holy life, determined to fulfil that objective and prepared for the necessary spiritual self-discipline. To others it may appear to be a life that misses much, but to the diligent servant of the Lord there is joy in devotion and the knowledge that the “much” that is missing is but worthless dross.